Press freedom violations on the rise in Nepal
Nov 26, Kathmandu: Freedom Forum is alarmed over a number of press freedom violations which have recently taken place in different parts of the Nepal.
On November 20, 2015, Irfan Ali, a reporter for News 24 television in Birgunj -- a city in the southern plains -- was attacked by the cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF).
"I was observing the torch rally organized by the UDMF in the evening. All of a sudden, some people came towards me, commented on my journalism work and expressed disatisfaction with my reporting. One of them hurled a torch at me which burnt my shirt. I suffered an injury to my shoulder but escaped more serious injury."
On November 21, a contractor attacked a reporter in Nepalgunj, a city in the southern plains in midwestern Nepal, over a report he had written on irregularities in the construction of a bridge.
"I had written a news story on 'payment to contractor before completion of bridge construction' in Nagarik daily three months back. But, the contractor Ganesh Shahi called me in the evening, came to the office, and insulted and manhandled me. As there were other friends in the [paper's regional office], the attack was averted," said Arjun Oli, a reporter for Nagarik daily from Nepalgunj city.
In another incident on November 16, the news chief at local radio station Marsyangdi, Yuvraj Shrestha, from Lamjung received a death threat over a news story on the black marketing of petrol.
"In the morning, the radio aired a news story about the black marketing of petrol from an Oil Store owned by Shree Kant Ghimire. In the evening, Ghimire came to my room and threatened me with an attack, asking why I had aired the news," Shrestha told Freedom Forum.
FM radio stops news bulletin owing to pressure from agitating parties
The Sanskar FM radio station based in Bara, a district in the southern plains of the country, has recently stopped airing bulletins on local news in view of the tremendous pressure from agitating political parties.
The Marketing Chief at the station, Bholanath Poudel shared the woes that the FM station had received many letters from the United Democratic Madhesi Forum, an alliance of political parties that have been waging protests in the southern plains of the country.
Poudel further said the agitators had set fire to the station's newspaper, Sanskar Khabar daily, and pressured the station to not report on the activities of other political parties and the Constituent Assembly members who signed the new constitution.
Freedom Forum vehemently condemns these incidents which have violated press freedom and journalists' right to freely report. The UDMF needs to ensure that its cadres do not violate journalists' right to freely cover the news. The growing pressure on the media to halt certain reports goes against democratic values. It has obstructed the free flow of information and citizens' right to information.
Increasing press freedom violations in the southern plains
On November 22, police officers insulted a number of journalists while they covering protests by political parties in Saptari, a district in the central southern plains of Nepal. The journalists were Om Prakash Shah with Bilochan weekly, Shatish Datt with Mithila weekly, Ashutosh Prasad Singh with C FM, and Parish Karna with Chandra FM.
Talking to Freedom Forum, Prakash Khatiwada, a reporter for the local Saptakoshi FM station, said, "The journalists were on duty, taking photographs of a person who was killed by police fire during the protest. But a group of police officers manhandled the reporters and verbally abused them."
"Who are you to make news? Don't [share the images of] the clash," reporter Khatiwada said, quoting the security personnel. On November 23, a motorcycle used by Parish Karna was vandalised, added reporter Khatiwada.
In the past few months, it has been very difficult for journalists to freely report in the southern plains of the country. Both the security persons and agitating parties are treating journalists harshly. Even though journalists are wearing press jackets so that others are aware they are journalists on duty, this has not been respected by the security personnel or the agitating parties.
Freedom Forum condemns the incident which grossly violated press freedom. It has created panic among the journalists. The security agencies must instruct lower level security employees to abide by press freedom and journalists' right to freely report as befits democracies.
The Oslo Times